After Supreme Court ruling, collector Oded Golan poised to reclaim Jehoash Tablet

Golan to reclaim tablet and the more-famous item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by Antiquities Authority.

THE JEHOASH TABLET 370 (photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
(photo credit: Antiquities Authority)
The Antiquities Authority has failed in its last-gasp attempt to confiscate the controversial Jehoash Tablet from Israeli collector Oded Golan.
In a verdict handed down on Wednesday, the three-judge appeal panel of Supreme Court justices decided by 2-1 that the inscribed tablet must be returned to Golan, who was acquitted last year of forging after a 10-year prosecution and trial.
The Supreme Court ruling caps a crushing defeat for the Antiquities Authority following the sweeping 2012 acquittal of Golan and dealer Robert Deutsch on multiple charges of archeological forgery. Israeli prosecutors advised by the authority had argued that although they continue to believe the inscription is a modern forgery, the reverse of the stone had been “dressed” in ancient times and was therefore classified as an antiquity that should belong to the state. But the court rejected those arguments by a majority decision.
Golan is poised to reclaim both the tablet and the more-famous item, the James ossuary, along with dozens of pieces confiscated by the Antiquities Authority and the Israeli Police at the time of his arrest in 2003. Golan greeted the decision as “good news.” He says he plans to put both the ossuary and the tablet on public display.
The latest about-turn could be the final twist in a nail-biting finale to the decadelong pursuit of Golan. However, a sternly-worded ruling by the same court in September suggests that the battle over the future of the antiquities trade is just beginning.
In an 8,000-word ruling handed down on September 29, the justices rejected Golan’s appeal against his conviction and sentence on three minor charges and used the opportunity to declare war on the antiquities market.
Branding the trade in antiquities “damaging” and motivated by “avarice,” the ruling authored by Supreme Court Justice Daphne Barak-Erez depicts “a world of collectors exchanging treasures teeming with trembling hands and heart – often within the law, and sometimes without,” and notes with approval that “in most countries of the world there is a general ban on the trade in antiquities, because of their recognition as a national resource.”
She further observed that this “conception also serves as the basis for the antiquities law” in Israel.
The ruling places the Supreme Court on a potential collision course with the Israel Museum and other major archeological collections in the country, which all display items purchased from the market. Israel Museum curators and experts have described a complex and well-oiled procedure of verification and testing carried out in museum laboratories to determine the significance and authenticity of items offered by dealers.
Many of the Israel Museum’s most notable archeological exhibits, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, royal seal impressions and coins, were purchased on behalf of the museum from the antiquities market and not discovered in authorized archeological excavations.
This article was originally published in Bible and Interpretation.